CPD Workshops

BrightSparks – Electricity

by Fellowship Agency January 31, 2019

This activity was created as part of a Gratnells What’s In My Tray CPD workshop for primary science teachers and teaching assistants to support practical work and delivery of the curriculum. It can be carried out as a stand-alone activity for students or combined with other activities from the session to form a STEM carousel.

The modules, leads, clips and test materials are all available from BrightSparks 4kids  who are the creator of this What’s In My Tray Activity.

A video of this activity by BrightSparks and Senior Science Technician Paul Cook can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgKxIyFPrIE&feature=youtu.be

You will need (per team of 4):

  • Shallow Gratnells (F1) tray with a four section insert and lid
  • Gratnells Art tray to work in
  • 1 x Bulb module
  • 1 x Buzzer module
  • 2 x Battery cell
  • 6 x Connecting leads
  • 2 x Crocodile clips
  • Selection of, 2-3cm long, test materials in separate labelled bags (e.g. metal rod, rubber band, string, wooden dowel, thick card, aluminium foil, plastic straw, paper clip, coin)

This activity also works as an individual challenge, just increase the amount of time allocated to complete it.

This activity can be repeated as many times as required and can be completed by individuals or small groups.


  • Place all the equipment into the shallow Gratnells (F1) tray insert and put the lid on. Place the shallow tray into the art tray.

What to do:

What will allow electricity to flow? This is your chance to investigate!

  • Working in the large tray, use the BrightSparks modules and leads to construct the following circuit.
  • To test your circuit, touch the crocodile clips together. If the bulb lights, your circuit works.
  • Take a photograph of your circuit with the bulb lit to evidence your success.
  • Optional: Have a look through the different test materials and make a prediction as to which ones will be conductors and which insulators. Write you answer ‘C’ for conductor or ‘I’ for insulator in the column labelled ‘Prediction’ on the table.
  • Use your circuit to test each of the materials provided, one at a time, by attaching a crocodile clip securely to each end of the test material, completing the circuit.
  • If the bulb lights, the material is a conductor. If not, it is an insulator.
  • Test all 9 of the materials provided and fill in the table provided by putting a tick in the appropriate column.
Material tested Prediction Conductor (✔) Insulator (✔)
Metal rod
Aluminium foil
Plastic straw
Paper clip

Extension activities if time allows:

  • Add a buzzer to your circuit in place of the bulb. Test if it works by touching the crocodile clips together.
  • Add the bulb back in to the circuit in parallel to the buzzer. Test that both work simultaneously by touching the crocodile clips together.

Tidy up time:

  • Fully disconnect the circuit including the crocodile clips.
  • Place all test components back into their bags and tray ready for use by the next participants.
  • Replace the lid.


Material tested Conductor (✔) Insulator (✔)
Metal rod
Aluminium foil
Plastic straw
Paper clip


Photographs of the completed circuits

What is happening?

Materials that allow electricity to flow through them are known as conductors. Electric current can flow through them because of the makeup of their atoms. What do all the conductors in this activity have in common? They are all metals. What other metals do you know? Many metals are good electrical conductors. Materials that do not allow electricity to flow through them are known as insulators. Plastic, wood, glass and rubber are all good electrical insulators. Insulators that are good at resisting the flow of electricity are also good at resisting the flow of heat, that is why wooden spoons are used for stirring porridge in the pan. Heat would travel through a metal spoon and it might burn your hand when you touch it, ouch! Understanding the properties of different materials is an essential part of deciding what the material could be used for.

Other things to try…

  • Look around you, can you find any other materials to test using your circuit? Make a prediction as to whether they will be a conductor or an insulator before you test them. Make a new table to record your findings.
  • Draw a circuit diagram for either the circuit with the buzzer in, or the circuit with the buzzer and the bulb in parallel.
  • Share the photographs of your complete circuits on social media using #WhatsInMyTray.

Answer these questions:

Q. Can you think of some examples where metal is used to conduct electricity?

A. The pins of a plug allow electricity to transfer from the wall socket, through the wires in the plug and the cable and into a device such as a lamp or a TV.

A. In a light bulb, the metal filament conducts electricity and the electrical energy is released as light.

Q. Can you think of an example where the insulating property of a material is important?

A. The plastic coating around electrical wires prevents the electricity from ‘escaping’ and giving you an electric shock?

Q. Why is it useful to have a buzzer and a bulb in the circuit?

A. To provide a visual (seeing with your eyes) and auditory (hearing with your ears) signal to indicate the results of your tests. This would be useful if not everyone could see the bulb or if a member of your team was blind or partially sighted.

Q. Can you think of any other systems where an auditory as well as a visual signal is helpful?

A. In a car, when you forget to switch your lights off, a buzzer sounds when you open your car door. This is in addition to the lights on the dashboard being on.

Health & Safety

As with all Gratnells Learning Rooms What’s In My Tray Activities, you should carry out your own risk assessment prior to undertaking any of the activities or demonstrations.